Sarah Younger has been with Nancy Yost Literary Agency since 2011, having previously been an eBook editor at Press 53. She earned a graduate degree in publishing from the University of Denver and grew up on a horse farm in North Carolina. Sarah is specifically interested in representing all varieties of Romance, some Women’s Fiction, and select Non-Fiction. For romance she is interested in the following genres: Contemporary, Historical, Western, Sports, Regency, Inspirational, Category, Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, Suspense, New Adult, and any combination thereof. For women’s fiction Sarah is drawn to layered stories that don’t shy away from the realities, and often difficulties, of life. She particularly enjoys women’s fiction that has cross generational plot lines, and as always meaningful pet characters are a plus along with happy endings. For non-fiction projects she would love to see anything involving animals, specifically inspirational equine stories, and she also is an avid sports fan and would love to see more athletic narratives in her inbox.
LS: Sarah, thanks so much for stopping by to chat with us. We’re so happy you’re here. You grew up in NC but are now in NYC. How do you think your childhood in the south prepared you for the life you live today?
I think that my childhood in North Carolina prepared me in multiple ways, but I didn’t see how things were (or would) come together way back when. I grew up on a horse farm, and it was a true working horse farm where we had from 14-24 horses at any given time depending on boarders and lesson horses etc., however a barn/farm that big came with a lot of responsibility and a lot of hard work because horses need to be fed and watered and taken care of day in and day out, rain or shine, school day or weekend. So, for me work ethic was not an option, it was expected, and developed, and matured over time because there were mornings I’d of much rather stayed in bed and slept. I also developed a love of reading early on and learning how to balance reading time and work time—both school work and farm work–became essential as I knew I couldn’t live with out one (in true dramatic teenage girl fashion) and the others were required. I like to think that some of my late night reading habits from childhood have carried over into my agenting career and have helped me to be able to balance the office portion of my job along with continuing to read my clients work and also stay attuned to market trends.
LS: How do you think Nancy Yost differs from other agencies?
I think that there are a lot of great agencies out there, but one way that I think NYLA stands out is the way that we’ve embraced the indie world and/or hybrid world for our authors. We of course still partner with and appreciate traditional publishers, however we are actively taking advantage of the opportunities available in indie space with our authors backlist as well as with the occasional front list single title or novella work and I think that our authors appreciate that service.
LS: Are you an editorial agent? If so, what is that process like, particularly when you’re working with a debut writer?
I am an editorial agent, and I think it’s one of the favorite parts of my job. I want to give my clients the best possible shot receiving an offer from a traditional publisher and that means making sure that their manuscript is in the best shape I can get it in before sending it on to editors. Also, after being a reader for more years than I’ve been an agent I like to think that I’ve developed a sense of reader expectation and perspective that is an asset to my clients.
The process changes a little depending on the work and the author, but I have to love the raw materials they send me first. I have to love the writing and the characters before bringing someone on, but then after I’ve read–and usually lost some sleeping hours because I couldn’t stop. I tend to do a general overview set of notes/thoughts, the broad strokes. Then I’ll send on back to the author in email form and perhaps set up a phone call to discuss my initial thoughts/notes/impressions/and suggestions for improvement. Then I’ll eagerly await revisions. Once they think that they’ve covered my concerns (and sometimes we have another phone call or two during this time to clarify my thoughts as needed) they’ll send back. I’ll read again and do more line edit type tweaks to polish the manuscript off and prep for submission, unless another broad stroke set of notes are needed, and then we circle back to that step.
LS: What qualities do you look for in a writer before signing?
The foundation of our relationship is the writing, so that comes first. It doesn’t matter if I love them as a person, or if they have a large and active social media following, or a contract in hand, what matters most is loving the words on the page. Does the world that they’ve built pull me in? Do I want to date their heroes? Do I want to be friends with their heroines? Can I see their book on the shelves of stores across the country? If so, I want to be their agent. That’s step one, the second step is a little trickier to define but it boils down to if we get along interpersonally. Publishing is a business, it might be one that is dotted with dreams coming true and “Happily Ever Afters” at the end of the books, but it is still a business. Having an author who writes dynamically and is also motivated to establish and grow their career is extremely important. Also, I want to know that they appreciate that and value my expertise. And then I want to work with authors who make my job even more of a joy. I want to be happy working for them on the weekends and late at night, because I know I’m going to be working long hours.
So if I had to summarize:
2) Interpersonal/Business Relationship and making sure we’re on the “same page.”
LS: The distribution of self-publishing seems to have changed the dynamic of publishing somewhat. What do you think the future of publishing holds and how will these changes impact agents?
I think that agents can help navigate the publishing world in all areas including the indie/self-publishing space. NYLA is active in the indie/self-publishing world and I’ve found that authors are glad to have someone who is their advocate working along side them. As for how will these changes impact agents, well it means that our resume is going to get a little bit longer, we’re going to be doing a little bit more, but it’s new and exciting and I’ve found that most (including myself) are happy to learn something new.
LS: I don’t think we can say that a “perfect query” exists. However, there are elements that certainly make a query strong. What should a strong query contain in order to grab your attention?
I have to say some of my clients got as close to a “perfect query” as one could get. I think that the best way a strong query can grab my attention is by doing the following:
1) Following all the submission guidelines and
2) be something that I represent
3) the rest is a little intangible and is a matter of hitting my inbox at the right time. I wish I could share more on this, but really following the directions is as important in querying as it was in elementary school.
LS: What are you not seeing enough of in terms of genres and what would you love to see in your Inbox?
I feel like I need to run and hide after answering this question because I’m so behind on responding to queries, so we’ll focus on what I’d love to see. I am always open to a good romance in almost any sub genre—that is something that’s never going to change. But I think I would love to see some sports or inspirational animal non-fiction projects. I sold my first non-fiction project recently and it was a new and exciting process that I’m eager to revisit.
LS: As someone whose career is focused on great fiction, are you ever able to read a book for pleasure without editing it?
Yes, I still have authors that I love to read and consume for pure enjoyment. A few off the top of my head here are a few who are on my list: Kristen Ashley, Rainbow Rowell, Ilona Andrews, Lisa Kleypas, and Stephanie Laurens. (Though I know there are more!)
LS: What’s your idea of career fulfillment and who would dream client be?
I have to say that all of my clients are a dream to work with, so I’d really just like to continue to add lovely and talented individuals to Team Sarah. I don’t think that I have a set idea that would equate to “career fulfillment.” I have goals that continue to grown and change and evolve as my career does, but I of course would love to have an author hit the New York Times list—and then hit it again.